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From Happenstance to First International Makruk Open Champion

by Peter Long - 18/03/2024

During one of his trips to Bangkok, while visiting a shopping mall, Peter Long stumbled upon a poster which had Chess and Makruk written on it. It piqued his interest. Makruk is also known as Thai Chess in the west. How did he get into this unique version chess? What is the origin of it? FM FT IA Peter Long writes all about his journey from attending a referee seminar to participating his first-ever international open tournament of Makruk and winning it. He shared his experience of playing a fun team match in Malaysia. Peter also did a lot of research and shares the origin of Makruk. Read this intriguing journey of Peter. Photos: FM FT IA Peter Long

Chess and Makruk poster

Discovering Makruk

On one of my trips to Bangkok, when visiting one their shopping malls, I was surprised to see a poster (photo above) advertising “Chess & Makruk” and from there my fascination with Makruk - a game best known to the west as Thai Chess - but this is so simplistic as its origins has a direct lineage to Chaturanga from which “International Chess” as we know it also derived.

Chess and Makruk, also known to the west as Thai Chess

Bangkok has world-class shopping malls everywhere, and it would not be long for tourists to associate them with Central which has the largest number simply everywhere and has even recently swallowed most of its main rivals.


One unique feature with these shopping malls is they always dedicate one floor to children education and happily sponsor body and mind activities.


So I was wandering and saw a typical setup

A typical setup of Makruk

After lunch, I went back to see the start of games, and I was amazed to see children dressed in Thailand national costume taking part and was told this was that Makruk is under the direct patronage of the King as a Thailand Traditional Sport.

Children dressed in Thailand national costume, seen taking part in Makruk

Later on I saw my good friend Jarunpol Sajjapornthep, better known by his nickname "Golden Cat", also the organiser of the Pattaya International Open, and the co-owner together with his wife “Bowtie” Jitasan Khampliw of 101 Chess Academy, is an active Makruk organiser and so was invited by the Central group to locate branches of their academy at their various shopping centres premises and to have their Chess & Makruk events year round.

Jarunpol Sajjapornthep and Jitasan Khampliw, organizer of Pattaya Open and 101 Chess Academy

Seeing how interested I was, he suggested I return in a few months to visit the Thailand Makruk Championship and to join the referee (arbiters) seminar to learn more about Makruk.


I could not believe my eyes with 300 participants qualifying from all over the country to play the grand finals where 32 winners would be joined by the top 32 ranked players seeded directly and then seeing their games recorded for live broadcast.

Thailand Makruk Championship in progress

Referee Course

The seminar was for the first time held in English to accommodate other foreigners like me interested, and quite fascinating because I finally learned the moves and the rules that applied, and a nice bonus was having another old good friend, Maung Maung Lwin, President of the Myanmar Chess Federation, being one of the lecturers!

Attending a referee course

I was in for a surprise after the seminar because we were given the opportunity to choose to be assistant arbiters (really observers) at the grand finals or to play in an International Open.

First International Makruk Open Champion

Well I decided to play, and by some miracle, took first place, (Photo 9) after which I of course announced my immediate retirement, knowing of course that I would never surpass this result and the rest would only be downhill!

First International Makruk Open Champion - Peter Long

Internationalising Makruk

Later four of us five had dinner with Dr. Palphol Rodloytuk, a Member of the Managing Board of the Thailand Traditional Sports Association where is the designated person responsible for Makruk and where we discussed how we might be able to best internationalise Makruk.

L to R: Peter, Bowtie, Maung, Dr Palphol

Fast forward to April 1-3 2024, my friend Richard Tan is with me in Bangkok and yes, even as a beginner at chess he is here for the referee seminar (in Thai!) but someone has understood and picked up the rudiments of Makruk and is ready for competition in my footsteps.

Referee seminar in Thai

It was of course just one of the many shopping mall events at Central that 101 Chess Academy will be organising all year round and his main opposition would be kids!

Participants of a Makruk tournament

Revenge Planned in Johor Bahru

It is not everyday you get to give a small simultaneous exhibition as part of a friendly veteran vs young talents or Malaysia vs Thailand match and even if the result was a forgone conclusion, a return match in Johor Bahru, Malaysia as been agreed with these young ladies and other young talents in November with a team competition involving teams from different parts of Malaysia and even neighbouring Singapore.

Veteran vs Young talents or Malaysia vs Thailand match

The Origins of Makruk

In 1,100 B.CE., the Ban Chiang people began to adopt religion, art, and culture from their eastern neighbours, the Indians, which was already playing Chess!


This society and culture in the later period, is known as the pre-Khmer and Dvaravati civilisation.


Ancient historians found traces of Makruk. 1888–1912 B.C., which corresponds to the Sukhothai period during the reign of Phra Maha Thammaraja Lithai.


Thus began to appear the structure of Makruk in Thailand for the first time.


Formalisation came about with the setting up of the Thai Sports Association of Thailand under the Royal Patronage, initially an organisation known as the Siam Sports Association which was founded by His Majesty King Mongkut, King Rama IV and included all Thai cultural games such as Thai kites, Krabi Krabong, Makruk (Thai chess), Thai checkers, Ska, Muay Thai (Thai boxing).


On January 5, 1932, during the reign of King Prajadhipok, King Rama VII, the Siam Sports Association became legally registered as the Siam Sports Association under Royal Patronage, with a nobleman Phraya Bhirombhakdi becoming the first President of the Association.


In 1944, Siam was renamed Thailand and therefore, the name of the association was changed to the Thai Sports Association under Royal Patronage.Later changed the name according to the regulations of the Sports Authority of Thailand to Thai Sports Association of Thailand under royal patronage.

About the Author

One Night in Bangkok! Peter Long, FM, IA and FT, no longer Secretary of the FIDE Trainers’ Commission

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